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Seven Basic Facts to Understand the Bible Well

By Nelson Thomas Mumbai

Some time ago I wrote on ten unique facts about the Bible. That was to present the importance of the word of God. Now, in this note I would like to give you some basic information that can help you understand the word of God, The Holy Bible.

     Many do make some effort to read and understand the Bible but fail to grasp the message of the Bible for the simple reason that they are not aware of these essential realities. This is not intended for those who already read and follow the Bible, but those who are not familiar with the Bible. Since Bible is God’s word and the only way for man to find God’s forgiveness and salvation, we should help everyone to understand the message of the Bible.

1. It’s not one book, but a collection of books.
Bible contains 66 books written over a period of 1400 years by around 40 writers, who lived in different era, having different occupations.

2. Bible has two major divisions called, Old Testament and the New Testament.

a. Old Testament:
These 39 books are the scripture of Jews and this section primarily deals with the Jewish nation. It was the book Jews used during the time of Jesus Christ.     There we have the story of creation and beginning of everything in the book called, Genesis. Book of Genesis also reveals how God chose Abraham and subsequently Israel as a nation.
    The remaining books continue the story of Israelites, God’s laws and regulations for their social, religious and national life. Story of various rulers, kings and spiritual leaders and their discourses also found in the OT. Their hymns, songs of praise & worship, and proverbs are so meaningful even today.

b. New Testament:
In this second part of the Bible we have 27 books dealing with all that happened since the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    First four books are story of Christ and His teaching, written by four different authors with four different perspectives. If not careful, one may be confused at the repetitions found in the gospels.
    Matthew was writing primarily for the Jewish people, Mark for Greeks, Dr. Luke for a Roman official and John wrote for the Christian believers. So they explained and emphasized various aspects of Christ’s story and teaching according to their targeted readers.

Today as we try to understand the story of Christ from these 4 gospels, it seems we can start with the third gospel that has been written by Dr. Luke. His writing is more simple and systematic at the same time giving us a clear picture of the full story of Christ.

    Then the reader can go to the fourth book that is the gospel according to John. Here the author is emphasizing the divine nature of Christ. Thus we will come to know who the Lord Jesus Christ really is.

    The narratives of Matthew and Mark are similar to Luke yet readers should read those books also, so that we get a complete picture of the story of Christ and His teachings. By the way, the well-known ‘Sermon on the mount’; ‘Beatitudes’ and ‘Lord’s prayer ‘(actually it’s a model prayer only!) are found in the book of Matthew.

Acts of the Apostles the 5th book in the New Testament presents the story of the early Church. The establishment and expansion of the Church of Jesus Christ is main topic.

Next 21 books are called epistles or letters by the early church leaders. In these books they explain various truths and principles for Christian’s faith and practice. Most of those letters are by Apostle Paul, whom God used in a very special way to make known many hidden truths.

Finally the last book, the book of Revelation is an unveiling of God’s program for the church and the world in the future. This book also reveals the present glory of Christ as well as the real state of the church today.

3. There is a vast difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
If we do not understand the distinction between both sections of the Bible, we may not understand the Bible rightly. Not only that, a wrong comprehension of the Bible will lead to many prejudices and loss of many blessings otherwise we could have experienced.

     The word ‘testament’ refers to the covenant or agreement God made with man. So, Old Testament refers to the covenant God made before the coming of Christ. We see many covenants of God in the Old Testament, but the major one is that which the Lord Jehovah made through Moses. (Exodus chapter 19 onwards.)

     In the Old Testament we also see a reference to a new covenant that God would make with man in future. (Jeremiah 31:31/ Ezekiel 37:6) Thus in the New Testament we see How God comes to make a New Covenant with man. Cf. Hebrews 8: 6 – 13/ 9:15/ 10: 16 – 17/ 12:24

Major Differences:
a. The basic distinction between the Old and New covenant is the condition in which agreement was based. In the Old Testament covenant, it was based on man’s efforts. He was supposed to do good, obey rituals, fulfill law and obtain blessing, God’s favour etc. Exodus 19: 5, 6. But man was helpless and unable to fulfill the law. Even though what the law says in the Old Testament is true, holy and God’s eternal standard, man due to his sin nature could not fulfill them. Thus always found as guilty sinner and worthy to be punished. (Romans 3: 1 – 22)

b. But in the New Testament, the New Covenant is based on what Christ did for us. Fulfilling all the demands of the divine law as found in the Old Testament, Jesus Christ fulfilled. He died as an atoning sacrifice. (1Corinthinas 15:1ff). Anyone who believes and receives Christ Jesus as His saviour and Lord is not only forgiven but become heir of all the blessings promised earlier and even much more. (Ephesians 1: 3ff.) He / she is indwelt by the Spirit of God, thus the nature of God is within him to help fulfill the law of God. This is actually the fulfillment of the promises of a New Covenant found in the Old Testament. (Jeremiah 31:31/ Ezekiel 37:6; Hebrews 8: 6 – 13/ 9:15/ 10: 16 – 17/ 12:24)

c. Old Covent was exclusively with the people of Israel, the Jewish nation, but in the New, God has a different program – the Church / the Assembly (ekklesia) – taken from Jews and the Gentiles. Acts 15:14; Ephesians 2:15ff. Church is not the continuation of Israel, not all things of the Old Testament applicable to Church. (Many are confused about the true Church of Jesus Christ – it’s not about a building or even the Catholic Church whose head is the Pope! For more Click here.)

     So, need to be sure which passage is applicable for the church and which one only for Israel. In certain cases we can draw lessons based on Israel’s story, but not the entire passage or promise.

d. Old Testament remains a shadow for the New Testament as we see many things referred in the Old have been fulfilled in the New Testament time. The various rituals and system of worship found in the Old finds it’s fulfillment in the New. So we do not need to follow the Old Testament rituals literally now. The right way of understanding the Old Testament is in the light of the New. We can take lessons and principles from the Old and practice in accordance with the New Testament. (1Corinthains 10:1ff)

e. Old covenant promises and blessings are basically earthly and consisted land, possessions etc; but in the New Testament it is heavenly and spiritual. Ephesians 1:3ff. In the new, we have no earthly temple, no earthly kingdom or expectations. All what a New Testament follower experiencing and expecting forward is spiritual and heavenly.

f. According to Old Testament eternal redemption from death and hell may not be possible. Impossible things of Old Testament becomes possible in the NT. In the place of law, grace rules; death is gone, life comes; curse is replaced with blessings.

g. There is much difference in the privileges of Jews and non-Jews according to the Old Testament. But in the New Testament no such difference, all are same in Jesus Christ. (1Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3: 11.) No one priest is serving as in the Old, in the New every believer is a priest, having the privilege to directly approach God. 1Peter 2:9.

     Thus we can notice much difference between both the sections. There are many Christians knowingly or unknowingly follow the Old Testament system rather than the New. The ritualistic worship system of Judaism was only a shadow, some still follow it. One person as priest with special dress to lead such services and the importance given to structures and external things are all foreign to the New Testament Church truth and principle. A reader must notice it and understand the Bible passage accordingly.

4. Whether old or new, the entire Bible is the inspired word of God, so every part of the Bible is valid and needed.
The only thing is we need to understand each section / book / passage in its context or background. Read the Bible systematically, book by book not just isolated verses. Because its God’s word, read it respectfully, expect and pray that God may make it clear to our mind.

5. The main topic of the Bible is salvation of sinful man and Jesus Christ is the central figure.
Careful reader can notice how the God’s way of salvation gradually being unfolded in the Old Testament and accomplished in the New Testament through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

6. Book of Psalm and proverbs are collections of songs and sayings, useful for everyday reading that comforts or exhorts the reader in all ages.
It’s good to read few verses of Psalms or Proverbs, as it can sooth our heart and enlighten our mind.

7. Reading of the Bible and understanding it accurately is the most difficult yet blessed thing life.

Why difficulty? Because there is no other book devil hates so much. During the past centuries satanic agents have tried to keep this book away from the people and even destroy it. Made every effort to twist and dilute the contents of the Bible. Some others have made counterfeit Bibles with full of lies and deceptions. Even today without any hesitation enemies of the gospel burn bundles of Bibles and even those hold and read it! Why does devil fears the Bible so much?

     There are many reasons. First of all, there is no other book exposes devil like the Bible. The word of God reveals who satan is; his work, tactics, his judgment and his future destruction etc.
     Bible saves and liberates man from satanic bondage, evil, darkness and eternal hell fire etc. Bible promises and promotes forgiveness, peace, purity, holiness, justice, purity, freedom, love and brotherhood. Devil does not like any of these divine virtues. He is a liar, deceiver, and murderer. He thrives on injustice, falsehood, slavery, killings etc. Devil is against God and His word.

     So, as you begin to read the Bible, read with determination, prayerfulness; not allowing the satanic forces to hinder you. All who sincerely read, understand, believe and follow the Bible are blessed. Revelation 1:3. Now it’s up to you. You have the freedom to choose…….. May the Lord Almighty bless and guide you as you go through the pages of this divine message for you…


Related topic: Ten Timeless Truths about the Bible

March 15, 2016


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